July 12, 2009

Investigation paper writing techniques

Investigative writing begins with asking questions and finding informed, sources: published material, knowledgeable people, or both. In most cases, collecting information in an investigation requires the ability to use a library and then to summarize, paraphrase, and quote key ideas accurately from other people's writing. In addition, personal interviews are often helpful or necessary. For an investigation, you might talk to an expert or an authority, an eyewitness or participant in an event, or even the subject of a personality profile. Finally, you may wish to survey the general public to determine opinions, trends, or reactions. Once you have collected your information, you must then present your findings in a written form suitable for your audience, with clear references in the text to the sources of your information.

Investigative writing uses the following techniques:

  • Beginning with an interesting title and a catchy lead sentence or paragraph. The first few sentences arouse your readers' interest and focus their attention on the subject.
  • Giving background information by answering relevant who, what, when, where, and why questions. Answering the reporter's "Wh" questions ensures that readers have sufficient information to understand your report.
  • Stating the main idea, question, or focus of the investigation. The purpose of a report is to convey information as clearly as possible. Readers shouldn't have to guess the main idea.
  • Summarizing or quoting information from written or oral sources; citing sources in the text. Quote accurately any statistics, data, or sentences from your sources. Cite authors and titles.
  • Writing in a readable and interesting style appropriate for the intended audience. Clear, direct, and readable language is essential in a report. Use graphs and charts as appropriate.

Reports within this section (see subsection links) illustrate three common types of investigative writing: the summary of a single book or article, the investigation of a controversial issue (using multiple sources), and the profile of a person. The three types may overlap (an investigation of a controversial issue may contain a personality profile, for instance), and all three types may use summaries of written material, questionnaires, and interviews. Some investigative reports are brief, intended to be only short news items, while others are full-length features.

The intended audience for each report is often determined by the publication in which the report appears: Psychology Today assumes that its readers are interested in personality and behavior; Discover magazine is for readers interested in popular science; and readers of Ms. magazine expect coverage of contemporary issues concerning women.